The Social Security Administration (SSA) is hard enough to deal with while living in the U.S. That’s because while the SSA offers valuable resources for individuals who are disabled, it can be difficult to understand all the rules and exceptions regarding the benefits it provides.

One big question many people have is whether Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are paid to eligible people living outside the United States. You may be able to receive SSDI if abroad, but not SSI if you leave for 30 days or more.

Receiving SSDI Benefits While Overseas

The Department of the Treasury prohibits SSA from sending payments to Cuba or North Korea. Once the U.S. citizen recipient moves to country where the SSA can send payments, the SSA will send the payments that they withheld while the recipient was in one of these countries. Legal residents who receive disability benefits can’t get their benefits for the months they are in Cuba or North Korea.

The SSA cannot send payments to individuals in some other countries as well:

  • Azerbaijan;
  • Belarus;
  • Georgia;
  • Kazakhstan;
  • Kyrgyzstan;
  • Moldova;
  • Tajikistan;
  • Turkmenistan;
  • Ukraine;
  • Uzbekistan; and
  • Vietnam.

Receiving SSI Benefits While Overseas

SSI benefits will cease for a citizen or legal resident once he or she is outside the U.S. for 30 days. The SSA will start paying SSI again once the person has been back in the U.S. for 30 days.

An exception to this is the children of military personnel receiving SSI. Military children who leave the U.S. because of their parents’ military service will not have their SSI payments stopped. In terms of SSI payments, out of the country includes Puerto Rico and inside the country includes the Northern Mariana Islands.

Important Things to Keep in Mind about Disability Benefits

Here are a few things to keep in mind about disability benefits whether living overseas, planning to live overseas, or staying in the U.S.:

  • One should alert the SSA if moving, whether inside or outside of the country.
  • A non-citizen who changes immigration or citizen status should alert the SSA.
  • Once outside the country 30 consecutive days in a row, the SSA considers that living out of the country. The SSA considers out of the country to mean a person is not in any of the 50 states nor in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa. Alert the SSA in this case. (Note above that SSI payments may stop if you are not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.)

Who Handles Overseas SSA Issues and Other Help

The SSA actually operates a division specifically set up to deal with international matters. It’s called the Office of International Operations (OIO). According to the SSA, the division receives assistance from the Department of State’s embassies as well as various consulates. The OIO serves people who are already living outside the U.S. or who plan to live outside the U.S.

OIO allows people to:

  • apply for retirement benefits;
  • apply for disability benefits;
  • do an eligibility screening; and
  • estimate benefits.

Contact Markhoff & Mittman, P.C. in New York if moving out of the U.S. and in need of help with disability benefits. The first consultation is free: 866-205-2415.


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